Police intensify manhunt for Ozekhome’s abductors

Edo State Police Command has begun a manhunt for suspected abductors of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome, and his driver who were snatched by unknown gunmen at the weekend on his way to his village in Etsako, Edo State.

Although the state Police Commissioner, Folunso Adebanjo, who was contacted by newsmen on the abduction on Sunday declined to comment because it was a security matter, he assured that his men will free the victims unhurt.

Four of the policemen who were drafted to rescue Ozekhome lost their lives during their encounter with the bandits.

Ehor Divisional Police Officer (DPO) who sustained injuries during the counter attack has been transferred to one of the federal hospitals in the state.

Daily Independent learnt that a contingent of crack detectives is already combing the bushes both within Edo and neighboring Delta and Ondo states.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of a chieftain of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state, Athanasius Ugbome, is also unknown.

There were indications that Ugbome may have been abducted by the same set of suspected kidnappers.

It was learnt that Ugbome’s car was few minutes ahead of that of Ozekhome along the Benin-Auchi road.

The SAN was abducted at Ehor after a gun duel between policemen who came to rescue him and the suspected kidnappers.

Reacting to the incident, the Afenmai Youth Coalition (AYC) where Ozekhome hails from in a statement on Sunday regretted that Ozekhome was kidnapped while on his way to Afenmai land despite the fact that he “has struggled over the years for good governance, equality, justice, and accountability in governance.”

“He has fought for the poor and has fought for the rich. He has defended the defenceless and has offeredpro-bono  legal services to the disadvantaged in society,” the youth group said.

While commending the bravery exhibited by the police officers that lost their lives, the Afenmai youths expressed their “profound condolences to the families of the four gallant policemen who fought to stop the abduction but lost their lives in the process. May the Almighty God grant them eternal rest.”

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“We call on the Federal Government to immortalise them as well as take over the education and general upkeep of the dependants of the late policemen as an incentive to brave security men and women whose lives are on the line daily for the rest of us.”

Another group, PROJECT NIGERIA, equally condemned Ozekhome’s abduction.

In a statement on Sunday by its National Secretary, Olawale Okunniyi, the group stated that the growing insecurity in the country underscores the need for an urgent national dialogue to build consensus on the restructuring of the Nigerian nation for justice, equity and economic empowerment of the Nigerian people.

“We condemn in strongest terms this unfortunate act against a leading member of the forthcoming national political summit scheduled to commence Monday, September 23, 2013 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.”

Also reacting, Raymond Dokpesi Centre for Media Development appealed to the suspected kidnappers to set him free in view of his humanitarian services in the legal profession.

Director General of the Centre, Chris Ebuetse, in a statement in Benin called on all good spirited Nigerians to join hands with the security agencies to  ensure the release of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

According to the statement, apart from being an indigene of Edo State, Ozekhome has transversed the country, advocating for good governance, issues of national development and peace.

Two other prominent Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Itse Sagay and Ladi Rotimi-Williams, however, on Sunday differed on the importance of the creation of state police as an effective panacea towards reducing crime in the country.

Sagay, who described the kidnapping of Ozekhome as shocking and disturbing, said “it was high time we embraced state police given the fact that the Nigeria Police have failed in its responsibility to protect Nigerians.”

“Ozekhome is a hardworking legal practitioner in the country. It was a huge shock even though I know that in this country, we have what we know as security deficit.

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“What it has brought home to us again is the validity of the struggle and agitation for state police. It is clear now that the Nigeria Police Force does not have adequate manpower and resources to provide security for this country.

“The Federal Government and National Assembly should stop selfishly clinging to the exclusive rights to own the police force and they should stop behaving like a dog in a manger which does not have the capacity to do something but does want to allow others do it effectively.”

In his own reaction, Rotimi-Williams said while the argument for creation of state police as way of checkmating crime is constructive, the best solution is to address the issues of poverty, unemployment and corruption while using the available resources for common good.

Lagos State branch of the National Association of Judicial Correspondents (NAJUC) also spoke on Sunday, appealing for immediate release of Ozehkome by his abductors.

A statement jointly signed by NAJUC’s Chairman and Secretary, Tunde Opeseitan and Gbenga Soyele, respectively, urged the abductors to reconsider their action and release the lawyer. The group further commiserated with the families of four police officers that were killed during the gun duel with the hoodlums.

Also at the weekend, former President Olusegun Obasanjo advocated a more integrated security approach as a way of reducing crime.

Declaring open the two-day 8th annual security conference organised by the Institute of Security of Nigeria (ISN) at the Main Auditorium of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Obasanjo noted that the theme of the conference, ‘Security and Safety in Commercial and Industrial Environment: Changing Patterns, Challenges and Solutions’, was timely for critical infrastructure protection in both commercial and industrial environment.

Pointing out that security has become a technological issue, Obasanjo who was represented at the occasion by Albert Omotayo added that safety strategies that control elements of facilities and infrastructure such as petroleum pipelines, telecommunications system, utility and power plants from criminal attacks calls for increase awareness on the menace.

Source: Daily Independent

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